you’re managing your Hashimoto’s yet still waiting for your depression to lift and your memory to return, you could be suffering from the beginning of a brain breakdown. Scientists call it accelerated brain degeneration, and it’s critical you know about it. Many symptoms of brain decline overlap with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism so that patients—and their doctors—often ignore the symptoms, treating them as just one more thyroid issue to live with.

Unfortunately, this is a common mistake with regrettable consequences since researchers have found Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, accelerated brain degeneration is one of the most severe consequences of poorly managed Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.

The most common symptoms of early brain degeneration—depression, fatigue, and loss of motivation and drive—are identical to hypothyroid symptoms. Other familiar symptoms include brain fog, an inability to find the right words, memory loss, and slower mental speed. Fatigue is especially common, making reading, driving, or just carrying on a conversation exhausting.

Thyroid patients may also experience loss of balance, vertigo, numbness and tingling in different parts of the body, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and other neurological symptoms. These are all complaints frequently expressed on thyroid internet forums, such as Facebook’s Hashimoto’s 411 group, and in the emails we receive.

The reality is that low thyroid function may be promoting brain degeneration. Possible mechanisms for this breakdown include:

  • increased brain inflammation.
  • altered brain chemical function (neurotransmitter activity).
  • promotion of brain autoimmunity.
  • loss of blood-brain barrier integrity (leaky brain).
  • brain ischemia (lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain).
  • increased protein aggregation, a clumping together of proteins in the brain.

Hashimoto’s and increased Parkinson’s disease risk

Two recent papers, including one that evaluated more than 300,000 people, show hypothyroidism increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease. If you have Hashimoto’s you should be aware of early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including:

  • slowness.
  • constipation.
  • decreased sense of smell.

Tremors usually occur later in the development of the disease, when it may be too late to reverse the damage.

Hypothyroidism and Alzheimer’s disease

Several papers have also found hypothyroidism associated with and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Be aware of early symptoms, including:

  • impaired memory.
  • difficulty with directions.
  • trouble learning new tasks.
  • frequently losing everyday items, such as the car key or cell phone.

If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and notice any of these symptoms, please immediately focus on improving your brain health.

Hazardous labels

Once a person is labeled a “thyroid patient,” doctors blame brain symptoms on hypothyroidism and ignore effective strategies that support brain health. One thing I have learned in teaching seminars to all kinds of health care practitioners, conventional and alternative, is that knowledge about the brain is limited to general recommendations, such as prescribing fish oil supplements or antidepressants. As brain degeneration goes unaddressed, symptoms worsen, causing considerable worry and stress for the patient.

Why Isn’t My Brain Working?

I recently published Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, a book about protecting the brain from degeneration. One reason I wrote the book was to help readers of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? understand the critical link between the thyroid and the brain and how to support healthy brain function wile managing their thyroid disorder. You have a window of time in which to turn brain degeneration around. I believe that knowing what to look for and what to do about it can help save your brain before it is too late. That’s why my brain book is a must-read for people with a thyroid condition, especially those who notice a decline in any aspect of their brain function.

Each chapter of Why Isn’t My Brain Working? begins with a symptom list associated with a neurologic mechanisms and includes strategies to support that particular aspect of brain health. This type of organization can help you identify which symptoms and signs apply to you and what to do about them.

If you are managing your autoimmune condition and taking thyroid hormone medication but still suffer from depression, fatigue, and loss of motivation, consider evaluating and supporting your brain health. I encourage you to read Why Isn’t My Brain Working?

At this point in my career, I realize I need to educate patients directly since so few practitioners can help them. I hope my brain book empowers you to improve your brain health and gives you the knowledge to take charge of it.

Brain book patient raising awareness about brain injuries

Cavin Balaster’s story was in the brain book under the name Colin in Chapter Two. Cavin fell 20 feet from a water tower onto a roof top. Although he did not fracture his skull, he suffered a significant traumatic brain injury (TBI). Brain MRIs revealed diffuse axonal injury and bruising of the left temporal lobe. While recovering in the hospital, he suffered a stroke on the right side of his brain, resulting in paralysis of the left side of his body. (Read his review here.)

After exhausting conventional approaches, Cavin consulted with Dr. Thomas Culleton, DC, DACNB, FACFN, a functional neurologist and teacher of my seminars. Using functional neurology and functional medicine approaches, Cavin beat the odds to regain function-90 percent of people with this injury do not recover.

Today Cavin is working to spread awareness about TBI. Watch his video and check out his Kickstarter Campaign.


New advanced brain seminar for health care professionals

I have recently updated a three-day course, Mastering Brain Chemistry, for health care professionals. The course expands on concepts in Why Isn’t My Brain Working? and reviews the current literature on brain health and clinical applications. Due to the content of the course and guidelines for university-sponsored continuing education, this course is limited to licensed health care professionals. For more information and dates please go to

Upcoming conferences

I have been invited to speak at the International Association of Functional Neurology conference this October and to participate in panels with leading international researchers and clinicians.

New faculty appointment

I recently accepted a faculty appointment for the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) and will present course modules on energy. The IFM is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME®) to provide continuing medical education for medical physicians. I will also continue my teaching schedule at Bastyr University, California.


(1) Li X, Sundquist J, Sundquist K. Subsequent risks of Parkinson disease in patients with autoimmune and related disorders: a nationwide epidemiological study from Sweden. Neurodegener Dis. 2012;10(1-4):277-84.

(2) Kacem I, Gargouri A, Ben Djebara M, Khamassi N, Cherif W, Gouider R. [Parkinson’s disease following hypothyroidism: clinical and therapeutic implications]. Tunis Med. 2013 Feb;91(2):168-70.

(3) Suhanov AV, Pilipenko PI, Korczyn AD, Hofman A, Voevoda MI, Shishkin SV, Simonova GI, Nikitin YP, Feigin VL. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease in Russia: a case-control study. Eur J Neurol. 2006 Sep;13(9):990-5.

(4)Tan ZS, Beiser A, Vasan RS, Au R, Auerbach S, Kiel DP, Wolf PA, Seshadri S. Thyroid function and the risk of Alzheimer disease: the Framingham Study. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jul 28;168(14):1514-20. doi: 10.1001/archinte.168.14.1514. PubMed PMID: 18663163; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2694610.

(5) Ghenimi N, Alfos S, Redonnet A, Higueret P, Pallet V, Enderlin V. Adult-onset hypothyroidism induces the amyloidogenic pathway of amyloid precursor protein processing in the rat hippocampus. J Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Aug;22(8):951-9.


  • Lisa April 27, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s by a doctor who uses your research as a base for decisions concerning my treatment. I am going into my 6th month of a very strict Hashi diet with little to no improvement in number levels on bloodwork although I do feel much better.

    My doctor uses Brain Core Therapy – what is your opinion of this treatment? I have my mapping scheduled for May 12…

    I have not had a chance to get your brain book to see if Brain Core Therapy is mentioned.

    • Brain Health Book May 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      It looks like Brain Core is neurofeedback therapy, which has a good track record, although he does not talk about it in the book. It’s good you feel much better, that’s important. The lab numbers can take some time to adjust.

    • soldmen November 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      Greetings Lisa,

      I read your comment about your lab levels not changing. I have Hashi’s and have received treatment for the last 8 months. I am on strict Hashi diet too and have had marked improvent, but have a ways to go yet. My functional medicine dr. discovered one thing that has been slowing down my recovery is that I am still taking rx med for anxiety/depression for the last 2.5 years from conventional medicine prescription. The effect of the rx has been inhibiting my liver function. Currently, between conventional dr. and functional dr. assistance, I am in the process of weaning off the medication with the hope that when it is out of my system the liver will kick in and run efficiently. Thought this may be something that may skew your labs if you were taking rx too.

  • soldmen November 25, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    I was recently diagnosed with “sub-clinical” Hashi’s by a functional medicine Dr. who studies Dr. Datis’s protocol. (I also think my mom has Hashi’s – she hasn’t been diagnosed, but many of her and my health issues are the same. Her mom died of Alzheimers.) I have been sick for years, am now 50. Before getting treatment the last eight months, pain had become hard to bear, but the worst and most frightening symptom I developed was brain degeneration. I couldn’t get out the word I wanted to say, etc. Scary! This was the turnaround moment for me. My husband and I turned to functional medicine and finally found someone who could put the pieces of my health puzzle together, giving us answers and hope. It hasn’t been easy and I have a ways to go yet, but am thankful for “functional medicine” practitioners! I think Hashi’s symptoms have been noticeable since my late 20s. My son, who is now 20, was diagnosed with ocd when he was 18. He takes an rx to help with this. I now realize ocd symptoms in myself since his diagnosis and have been rx’d by conventional medicine for anxiety and depression since my late 20s off and on – never diagnosed with ocd. I have observed “possible” auto-immune symptoms he has. Low blood sugar symptoms- tremors, dizziness – neither very often; brain fog too at times – following directions, remembering directions; and he is always tired. My question for you is: Is OCD a possible symptom of the auto-immune reaction? What is your experience with patients who have auto-immune disease and OCD; and then, Hashi’s and OCD? Looking for answers for my son especially – I want to do all I can to help him feel better mentally and to get earlier management of auto-immune too. Am also asking for myself about Hashi’s/OCD. What recommendations would you give for where to start looking for answers for my son? Are there specific tests – you would start with?

    • Elizabeth December 14, 2018 at 10:44 am

      Hi! First of all, I recognize that your comment is from four years ago so I hope this answer can get to you (or at the very least, you have found your answer on your own over the past couple of years–I pray you, your mom, & your son are doing MUCH better!! I’m so sorry you each have had to suffer with these horrible diseases/dysfunctions)

      FOREWARNING: Sorry for the novel, it’s been a journey and I have no idea how else to explain all of this haha…

      I have Hashimoto’s and have also been diagnosed with OCD (anxiety, depression, and ADHD as well, but OCD being the most present through a psychological brain waves test that may be helpful for you and your son to look into?) so there’s a chance it could be. I have noticed a similar link between the two and other patients as well, but of course especially with myself. OCD has always been an underlying problem for me, but more subtly when I was younger (it bothered me to not have everything smooth when I was painting, couldn’t stand certain textures touching me/having certain things on my hands, there are certain foods I can’t stand to eat because of their textures, or perfectionist qualities, but I was also born a premie with slight nerve damage so I have no idea which belong to that instead or even both). Before my Hashimoto’s really took control and the symptoms [seemingly] fully developed, I was able to teach myself (especially with the help of others such as my art teachers, etc) to suck it up and get through them to eventually be able to mostly ignore them a lot easier.

      However, after I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and then Hashimoto’s to then start that whole balancing journey, my OCD started to intensify and become very disruptive to the point where it’s so present that it can be too hard to think of anything else in order to teach myself to ignore it. I was lucky enough to be diagnosed when I was a junior in high school (discovered the link with Hashimoto’s around my senior year into my freshman year of college), but at that time depression was the biggest mental disability I faced (and was a major symptom indicator that attacked as a red flag that something was up and lead me to look into/eventually getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism) and anxiety quickly followed (the transition into college and all the change it brings surely didn’t help all of that lol). I finally accepted them and that I needed further help past [attempting] self-management my sophomore year of college and was prescribed Lexapro but then went to Zoloft because of the rollercoaster that adjusting to antidepressants brings. Unfortunately, there was still some anxiety that obviously loomed in the distance and I now think that was the OCD (or at least start of branching off of the general/social anxiety) that I was unaware of and thus left unattended to.

      At the end of my sophomore year into my junior year of college, I got really sick with C Diff from taking too many antibiotics for the constant strep & sinus infections I was getting (side warning to all my fellow autoimmune sufferers out there: it’s always best to try natural remedies such as aloe vera, aloe vera juice, Manuka honey, essential oils [safely], etc first before resulting to antibiotics especially when it comes to how often we tend to get sick–trust me lol, I do not say this lightly when I say the C Diff has been the worst thing I’ve experienced, along with MRSA also connected to my impaired immune system from all of that + Hashi’s, even beyond the usual Hashimoto symptoms and I REALLY don’t want anyone else to have to suffer through it too). C Diff is especially contagious and even after I finished one fight of it, I ended up catching it again unknowingly because it lingered behind after all the cleaning I had already done to prevent that. I then [understandably] became very obsessive with over-cleaning and sanitizing every inch of my home especially when I would go home on breaks and were around my family, etc. I was constantly worried not only about myself catching it AGAIN, but my loved ones and couldn’t help but see myself as an infective monster. Thankfully, it finally worked and I finally successfully got rid of it (to my knowledge, I still have moments of paranoia that I might still have some strands of it left in my intestinal tract or something and am constantly on the look-out for symptoms and avoiding antibiotics) but it might not be too shocking that it left a mark on me mentally.

      Since then (it has been about two years, maybe almost three since I first got it), I have been way more OCD than ever. Some days are worse than others–much like my other bouts of depression and anxiety–and I notice an increase of it when I’m tired or stressed out so I try to avoid that (mindful meditation and things like ASMR or sleep hypnosis [I suggest looking up Michael Seeley especially] videos on YouTube even help). On those days, it can get so bad that I can’t think of anything but trying to avoid germs/touching things/messing up/”imperfections” only I would notice. I sometimes can’t even get myself out of bed because I don’t want to acknowledge all the grossness/flaws around me and want to live in blissful ignorance (never works and only wastes life though, then you are literally rotting in your own filth which defeats the purpose). I have since started wearing flip flops in the house to avoid anything on the floors touching my feet (also basically defeats the purpose, but I think it’s the mentality that counts in my mind :/), ironically have a very hard time cleaning because I have trouble facing it and will go into panic attacks trying to, have a hard time getting myself to do my homework because of panic attacks that come from the anxiety of not knowing what the teacher wants/getting things wrong/not being able to retain all of the information needed/other stupid imperfection anxities/OCD (has caused me to have to withdraw at least two years worth of college classes because of screwing me up so badly + the usual absences from getting sick all the time; oh the joys of living with an autoimmune disease…), etc.

      I’ve been progressively working on improving it, but it’s certainly a work in progress that has proven to be a lot harder to tackle than it was prior to me getting so sick/when I was younger. Basically what I’m trying to say through explaining all of that is I’m not quite sure which of those belong directly to my Hashimoto’s symptoms and which belong directly to my [possibly] post-sickness influenced PTSD/paranoia dealing with an almost constantly impaired immune system from an autoimmune disease OCD. Or perhaps even a combination of both as I predict? All I know for sure is that I went to a psychiatrist and took an electronic brain wave test and tested positive for OCD, anxiety, ADHD, and depression with OCD being the highest (but the others following close behind and surely not small appearances unfortunately). At the time (about 1.5 years ago?) I was surprised to see the OCD being the highest recorded, but now it makes complete sense to me (lol) especially when it comes to showing through the bad lifestyle habits it has influenced…

      My hypothesis is that it’s a symptom of ours that depression and anxiety is looming in the background (biologically) and that the stressors in our lives can trigger it to take different forms/extremes such as it seemed to do after my C Diff, MRSA, etc battles. It is certainly irrational and disruptive and behind the additional sicknesses we can catch, is my least favorite part of having Hashimoto’s. It literally can put me through the ringer and uproot my whole life if I don’t consciously keep working on acknowledging/[trying to] control it. I do see improvement (or that it’s easier to manage and consciously recognize it at the very least) when my gut health is better as in I avoid dairy, gluten, inflammation foods, etc and biologically clear my mind a bit that way. It’s at it’s absolute worst whenever my mind is distracted by something else like stress, lack of sleep, being sick, mucus-overgrowth aka sinus infection and/or leaky gut, etc most likely because I can’t be on top of my game to think it through. Or maybe that’s a sign of it’s biological links with Hashimoto’s/its symptoms of itself? I have no clue. Either way, I really recommend you give a brain waves test a try to see what it comes up with! It really helps to show you what specific mental areas/habits you should isolate and become conscious of needing to work with. And it just helps to make a lot of sense of at least some of the craziness that we have to deal with 🙂

  • Luverne December 6, 2014 at 2:34 am

    I first heard you speak on the Thyroid Summit this summer and ordered and read your brain book. I need a referral to someone in my area in central Michigan. I am on a downhill slide and desperate for help. I have not been able to get better and am instead getting worse with a progression of neuro symptoms that are frightening.
    In august an ultrasound showed no detectable thyroid tissue and my PA just said he never seen that before. there is a lot more to my story but can you help me find someone here in Michigan. I am a nurse who has had to be on medical leave and cannot work any longer due to all that has happened. Thank you for any insight or help you can give.

  • Kathy March 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I have been struggling with fatigue and increasing number of food allergies for the last 4 years. I was diagnosed with low thyroid function. Taking different medications has not improved my thyroid levels noticeably. I have altered my diet to avoid all food allergies as much as possible. The key ones include Garlic, Gluten sensitivity, dairy, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, peas, green beans, pineapple, cherries, amaranth, kidney beans. Over the last 6 months I have also cut out all grains, all beans. My cortisol levels are high, as well as high levels of inflammation in my liver. I have been working with a functional medicine doctor who is also a gastroenterologist. I don’t feel that I am making any real progress. Can you recommend a functional doctor to work with in San Diego CA that is trained in your thyroid and brain function course work?

    • Tiina December 15, 2017 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Kathy, did you receive any recommendations? I’m also in the San Diego area and would love to know as I’m just now learning about some of the extended brain degeneration. Here I’ve been beating myself up for the last couple of years about my lack of motivation and drive and it could be because of the Hashimoto’s that I’ve just recently finally gotten a doctor to prescribe low dose of thyroid med to help support. Not to mention how scared I’m getting of my memory loss and inability to find words. Who is your functional dr./gastro that you’re seeing?
      Thank you,

      • Susan (admin) December 19, 2017 at 1:45 am


        Kathy’s post was back in 2015, so she may or may not see your reply. Dr. Kharrazian has a practitioner referral list here: Some of them are willing to practice remotely.

        For the motivation/drive and memory (all brain-related) symptoms, I’d recommend seeing a practitioner trained in functional medicine. They are good at piecing together the factors at play.

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